I have now seen it twice in the past week, so have to ask the question…what does it mean – and why is it increasingly being seen as a problem – if a red wine is too ‘ripe’?

Now, by that I don’t mean sweet. Fortified wines like Port are a whole other ball game.

No, the focus seems to be all about the fruit in the grapes getting so ripe that causes the wines to become…something. Over-ripe, then? Or raiseny? How about unbalanced or one-dimensional?

Well, why don’t we deal with these one by one.

Over-ripe? Well, to me that would mean when something starts to go bad, like fruit that has been left on the counter too long. I find it hard to believe that the wines which have been getting this “too ripe” rap are in this category. They are expensive, from good producers…that doesn’t make sense.

Raiseny, then? Well, that implies dried out…and there is a style of wine where that is actually the goal. Amarone – from Italy – is made by the ripasso method, whereby the grapes are dried before the wine is made. That makes the wine have a raiseny tinge to it, but that is the style. Not for everyone, perhaps, but not a problem either. So strike two, in my books, against the “too ripe” argument.

So how about unbalanced? Personally, at least when it comes to fruit, I would argue the more fruit the better. For those people who promote “food wines” (which need food to taste good) or like herbal, woody wines without a lot of fruit, I guess this would be a concern. But not for me.

So that leaves one-dimensional i.e. too fruity! Well, that one just seems ridiculous. When we eat fruit (and vegetables, for that matter), don’t we want them to be as ripe as possible, so they will fully display their characteristics? Apples, pears, oranges, grapes, tomatoes…all taste best fully ripe. So why not wine?

What’s with the “too ripe” thing, then? Well, I have an idea.

There is a significant part of the wine industry (wineries and wine reviewers) who – for whatever reason – seem to have a vested interested in promoting old style ideas. Whether it is “better with food”, “give it a few years” or “more complex than fruity”, they seem to come from a perspective that needs to make wine more complicated than it should be. Ironically, that’s what turns so many people off wine in the first place.

But I think they are wrong. Even allowing for differences in style – which I fervently support – the bottom line should be that wine is made from fruit, so the riper the better. If it isn’t, beware of excuses for under ripe or overgrown grapes. A glass of wine should be something you can enjoy on its own, and on its own merits.




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